Grazing fees not new
I am writing this response to (Dick) Trail's article in the June 19 Gazette edition.
There sure has been so-called "government subsidies" when referring to BLM land rentals. This surely has helped Deb Fischer and her husband in their successful ranching operation.
I don't even know if the Fischers have any BLM land leased. Mr. Trail referred to them in his article.
The following points were put together by a very knowledgeable source:
* BLM and Forest Service Grazing fees in Nebraska 2012 - $1.35 per animal unit (AUM). The 2012 fee is the same as last year's.
* The fee structure was established by the 1978 Public Rangeland Improvements Act -- the fee cannot fall below $1.35 per AUM, and an increase or decrease cannot exceed 25 percent of the previous year level.
* The fee must be set annually and calculated on three factors -- current private grazing land lease rates -- beef cattle prices -- the cost of livestock production.
* The 2011 private rental rates in Nebraska, according to the national Agricultural Statistical Service, were $27.40 per AUM, up to $31 per cos and calf.
* My own inquiry to the Fish and Wildlife Service at a recent meeting (other federal agencies that own land are not restricted on rental fees by the 1978 Rangelands Improvement Act). From the Crescent Lake Refuge in Morrill County, their bids ranged from $1 to $26 per AUM. Fish and Wildlife at Valentine had a couple of "unusual" tract bids for $56.50 per AUM this year (they consider a cow and calf as an AUM).
* From the GAO report of 2005 -- "Grazing fees charged on lands managed by the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of Energy, Bureau of Reclamation and Department of Defense are generally higher than on BLM and Forest Service lands." Certainly verified by my one recent inquiry.
* The same GAO report of 2005 noted the grazing land fees in the 17 western states ranged from $8 to $23 per AUM with an average fee of $13.40
* Also the GAO report revealed the fact the BLM and Forest Service grazing fees decreased by 40 percent between 1980 and 2004, while fees charged by private ranchers increased 78 percent over the same period. Private land grazing fees in parts of Nebraska were at $28 per AUM during this time period.
* An important point -- this is not a Sen. Ben Nelson cooked-up deal to focus on the Fischer (by the way, Trail misspells Fischer a couple of times and once right in his article -- this the lack of research by the important items, let alone the details) but this low grazing fee issue has been around for a long time. In November of 2005, a large group of organizations petitioned the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture to initiate rulemaking to reflect on the Fair Market Value of grazing fees for land owned by BLM and the Forest Service. It was almost unbelievable for me to find out letters on behalf of the Secretaries of Agriculture and Interior were not sent to respond to the petitioners until Jan. 18, 2011. Both secretaries said they were not going to move forward with rulemaking. One of the many reasons; no one from Congress has asked for it.
* Thus the timing for moving forward with changing programs to improve government income and reduce costs is now, and Sen. Nelson is pushing for changes under all fairness rules.
I have not always agreed with Mr. Nelson's stand on many issues. I just had to respond to Mr. Trail's ranting and raving on as he does in almost every article he writes.
It is hard to believe that a person that has lived off the government all his adult life can be so critical about the hand that feeds him.
This is how I see it.